Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Golem and Dugtrio

Alolan Geodude

In the second instalment of my exploration of regional variant Pokémon, we’re going to deal with two Pokémon whose regional forms are related to Alola’s geology: Alolan Geodude/Graveler/Golem and Alolan Diglett/Dugtrio.  Geology, like archaeology and ecology, has always been in the background of Pokémon, but these games have never been the kind of stories that need a whole lot of scientific verisimilitude in those areas – or, to put it another way, who really gives a $#!t whether or not there are actually Cretaceous fossil deposits in the part of western France that corresponds to Ambrette Town?  I could tell you that I care, and you’d probably believe me because, frankly, I give off a certain vibe, but the truth is I haven’t looked it up, and I’m not going to.  Alola, in my opinion, cares more about the fact that it is Hawai‘i than any of the previous Pokémon regions cared about being each of those places, and at a guess maybe half of Alola’s new Pokémon are in some way influenced by that, but there are still limits – no one cares that there aren’t actually toucans or koalas in Hawai‘i, for instance, because Alola is also just a pastiche tropical paradise that should have whatever Pokémon, locations, characters and rocks seem fun.  Today we have one Pokémon that cares a lot about having a specifically Hawaiian inspiration, and another that takes a somewhat more casual approach – let’s talk about that.

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Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Raticate, Persian and Muk

I think we should talk about regional variants, don’t you?  I was going to do the Alolan forms at the end of generation VII, and the timing got so tight at the end, but now that we’ve got a bunch of Galarian forms as well, it seems like something we could do all at once.  So here’s the plan: Alolan forms first, Galarian forms after that, and I dunno if I have all that much to say about each one individually but I could certainly take ‘em three at a time, trying as far as possible to put them into groups that are in some way thematic.  Sound good?  Okay.  We’re going to begin with the Alolan Rattata and Raticate, Meowth and Persian, and Grimer and Muk – not because they are all Dark-types, which is a reason, but not a very good one; we’re putting them together because all three forms exist in Alola as the result of human intervention.  Let’s discuss.

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Larry asks:

Hey, are you worried about regional variants making the OG mons get sidelined? Because while I love the new versions, both from a bio nerd standpoint and a creature design standpoint, I look at variants getting evolutions, OGs getting nothing, and get… concerned

What if the answer to “how to deal with pokémon who need buffs” simply becomes “replace them with clones?”

If I’ve merely missed Hoennian Obstagoon from avoiding SwSh spoilers, I’m sorry to bother, but I’m kinda scared. Thoughts?

So… I think there may actually be a reason for this, and it’s a dumb reason.  Game Freak think they’re not allowed to give new evolutions to old Pokémon unless it’s through regional variation, because it would create an inconsistency in how the Eviolite works.  If Hoennese Linoone could evolve, then it would be able to use an Eviolite, which it can’t in generation VII.  Therefore, we can never let it evolve.  Now, personally I think that whether or not to give new evolutions to old Pokémon is a top-level design choice with no inherently right or wrong answer, and I would actually be fine with never seeing it again (incremental moveset/ability buffs or even flat base stat buffs to older Pokémon are another matter, and I think we have every reason to imagine that those will continue; Jim the Editor would like to recommend a YouTube series on the subject that you can find here).  However, “we accidentally painted ourselves into a corner by introducing a weird item during a generation that consciously downplayed older Pokémon” is the dumbest possible reason I can imagine for making that choice.  I hope that’s not actually something that Game Freak’s designers have in mind – or, if it is, that they get over it – but it is kind of consistent with their actions.  New evolutions stop in generations V-VII, with the sole exception of Sylveon (who is allowed, because Eevee can already use an Eviolite), and reappear in VIII, but restricted to Pokémon that got Galarian variations, who can therefore be treated as a blank slate. Mega Evolution and Gigantamaxing, although they have other functions, can also be seen as a replacement of sorts for new evolutions (with the added bonus that you can give them to Pokémon who’ve already evolved twice, such as the obvious best Pokémon that is everyone’s favourite and may not be questioned, Charizard).  It also feels like the same kind of logic that dictates that old Pokémon who get new evolutions must always evolve in new, increasingly obscure ways that weren’t available in previous generations (can’t evolve Seadra in Red and Blue because Pokémon couldn’t hold items until generation II; can’t evolve Piloswine in Gold and Silver because it couldn’t learn Ancient Power until generation IV). On the other hand, they have also now stopped holding to some of those, because it’s just a huge pain when you can’t have Leafeon in the game unless you build an area with a Mossy Rock, and if some godawful pedant wants to ask “so why can’t I use a Leaf Stone on Eevee in Red and Blue?”… well, honestly, fµ¢£ ’em.

So I guess I would say yeah, be scared because the thing you’re describing is definitely happening and can only be stopped by Game Freak choosing to abandon an arbitrary nonsense rule that they’ve held for three generations now.  However, also don’t be scared because Pokémon don’t need to keep getting new evolutions to be valid, there are other ways of buffing them that the developers definitely know about and use, and anyway they’ll probably see the light eventually.

Patch asks:

With regional variants no longer restricted to gen I Pokémon, it might be a good time to consider which of the Unovan Pokémon you rejected you would like to give a regional vatiant?

Hmmm… tricky…

There’s probably a fair bit you could do by building on the industrial revolution theme that some of the generation VIII material we’ve seen already seems to be going for.  I could see Heatmor getting some kind of region-specific evolution that builds up to a whole steam engine, maybe changing its type to Fire/Water or Fire/Steel (although the implied comparisons to Volcanion or Heatran would not be flattering).  Or even a Galarian form of… [ahem]… grbdr… that’s based on a sack of coal, making it a Fire/Poison-type that also gets Rock attacks.  Then, on another angle, we could have a Steel/Fairy form of Pawniard and Bisharp based on white pieces from the famous Lewis chess set from Mediaeval Scotland, to contrast the original black Unovan ones.  Possibly some sort of “royal” form for Swanna, but I’m not sure where exactly to take that.

Mega Bidoof asks:

Do you think Game Freak will continue to add new evolutions to existing Pokemon now that mega evolutions exist?

I think the two are largely unconnected.  Think about it: generation V had no new evolutions of existing Pokémon, before Mega Evolution was introduced, and generation VII featured neither.  In fact, the only new evolution of the past three generations – Sylveon – actually coincided with the introduction of Mega Evolution.  It’s true that both serve a similar thematic purpose; they both give a new generation of games a more concrete link to Pokémon’s past.  I agree that new evolutions seem to be on the way out, but I think the “replacement” concept to fill that role, if any, is much more likely to be the continuation of regional variant Pokémon.  Mega Evolution is generation VI’s mechanic and tied to the history of Kalos and Hoenn, just as Z-moves are generation VII’s mechanic and tied to the history of Alola, just as the Dream World was generation V’s and has not returned (though the hidden abilities it unlocked remain).  The concept of regional variation, by contrast, doesn’t carry mechanical or worldbuilding baggage, and innately lends itself to being reused again and again through new forms that express the personality of each new region.  Even that, though, is not certain; the designers may have liked regional variation as a feature of Alola specifically, expressing the unusual paths that evolution can take on archipelagos in the real world.  To me it’s most plausible that generation VIII will feature no new evolutions of existing Pokémon, no new Mega Evolutions, and no new species-specific Z-moves (I’m 50/50 on new regional variations), instead spotlighting some other entirely new mechanic that will be tied to the history of the new region and the plot of the new games.

All of this is, of course, as likely as not to be proven completely wrong within the next couple of weeks (heck, maybe even days).  I don’t do predictions; it makes me ill-tempered.

Smugleaf asks:

I love Serperior. Do you have any idea for a Mega evolution or regional form for Serperior? Maybe make him Grass/Poison

Well I’m not exactly sitting on one that I’ve been saving for a special occasion or anything like that, but let’s give it ago…

I suspect we’re not likely ever to see regional forms of starter Pokémon, but on the assumption that we might, well, I think there could be interesting ground for a Kalosian form of Serperior.  Serperior is supposed to have a royalty aesthetic, and we know from interviews that elements of his design are based on French nobility and the symbol of the fleur-de-lis.  A Kalosian Serperior might have the blue and gold colours of the Bourbon dynasty, some kind of crown-like head crest, maybe a more ornate tail… it might be interesting if this version of Serperior had a focus on physical attacks and particularly on blade-like moves like Night Slash and Sacred Sword.  Typing could be Grass/Fighting, Grass/Steel, even Grass/Fairy, perhaps with a signature move to match (there’s nothing clearly wrong with Grass/Poison for a variant of Serperior, but we do have rather a lot of those already).  Contrary might be replaced with something like Defiant or Justified that provides a situational attack bonus.  And of course these Serperior would have been favoured partners of the Kalosian royalty in ancient times.

Anonymous asks:

In future games, if we start finding alolan form pokemon in other regions, would they cease to be considered alolan forms? I mean it could be wiped away with an “oh i brought these pokemon from alola, and then they escaped into the wild” explanation. But still..what are your thoughts?

Well, I think probably the most likely scenario is that we just won’t find Alolan form Pokémon in other regions without a good reason for how they got there.  Several of the Alolan regional variants have some sort of “backstory” for why they exist in Alola specifically, like Rattata, and Raichu’s Pokédex entry explicitly says that Pikachu evolve into Alolan Raichu only in Alola, but not all of them do, so it’s plausible that some of them could have originated in other regions with similar conditions and spread to Alola, or vice versa.  Circumstances could very well be different for each species.  For some of them the idea that they are regional variations, that they exist in some parts of the world and not others, is more important than the idea that they are specifically Alolan.